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Jess Larson and Grace Bindbeutel have been nearly inseparable from the time they first started playing soccer.

The St. Dominic freshmen have known each other since they were in grade school at Immaculate Conception School of Dardenne Prairie and have stayed close ever since — on and off the soccer pitch.

“We're always hanging out, we're always together,” Larson said. “We've gone to school together since preschool. Our parents have known each other for a while so we've always been really close. It's really nice because we share a lot of the same passions in a lot of different areas of our lives. We both know we have someone we can talk to about anything.”

That cohesion has formed a lasting bond, and it's not just about soccer.

Their similar passions include a love of math and science classes, such as biology, to animated television shows, movies and pop and country songs.

“It's real cool, because even though I'm close to my parents, I can't talk to them about some things because they aren't going through the exact same thing I am and Grace is,” Larson said. “It's great just to have someone to talk to and we can share our thoughts about everything.”

On the pitch, that bond helped propel St. Dominic (26-3-1) to the Class 3 state championship. It was the program's fifth state title but first since 2013.

Bindbeutel and Larson, the Post-Dispatch All-Metro girls soccer co-players of the year, found comfort in one another all season, knowing where the other was going to be on the field just about all of the time.

Bindbeutel led the Crusaders with 29 goals and 15 assists while Larson was right on her heels with 28 goals and 15 assists. Bindbeutel broke the school record for goals in a season and Larson tied the previous record of 28, set by Mackenzie Rief in 2014.

“I think it was real cool that we were able to accomplish this much as freshmen,” Bindbeutel said. “I know we have three years left ahead of us and that we can do so much more together. It's so special to (succeed) because it shows we both worked so hard this season.”

Larson edged Bindbeutel with 12 game-winning goals while her closest friend had five. Even though the duo accounted for 17 of St. Dominic's 26 most important tallies, Bindbeutel said a cohesive team effort helped the Crusaders raise the trophy.

“If we didn't have each person on this team playing to their full potential and doing their part to help the team, we wouldn't be where we are,” Bindbeutel said. “Jess and I certainly wouldn't (have amassed the statistical success) and the team wouldn't have won as many games as it did or achieved what it did.”

As two of the younger players on the roster, Larson and Bindbeutel said they felt welcomed by St. Dominic's veteran players, who helped them find their way quickly.

“The girls were great, they let us know what the high school season was going to be like before we ever played a game because I had no clue,” Larson said. “We'd get texts and messages before our first game from the older girls telling us what and who to look out for and it was so great. They made us feel right at home. They made us feel like a part of the team.”

They were also a welcomed addition for St. Dominic coach Greg Koeller.

“When you boil it down to its core, it's all about scoring goals,” Koeller said. “Any coach likes a goal-laden scoring partnership and Jess and Grace are a pleasure to have on our side. Based off a longtime off-field friendship, these two have built an on-field partnership few can match. They've already created their folklore at St. Dominic. As long as they can remain healthy, they will continue to be prolific.”

For Larson, the idea of being prolific isn't something she's too worried about right now.

She's focused on growing her game one step at a time with Bindbeutel by her side.

“It's almost relaxing and there is this sense of calm when we're on the field together because I know that she'll be where I need her to be. It's great knowing there will be three more years of that. We know that if we continue to work hard, there is so much we can accomplish.”




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